The Manchester Evening News reported on review left by a patron of Chef Simon Wood’s restaurant, Wood, which called out the MasterChef winner as being unable to “adapt to cook vegan food”.
Chef Simon Wood wrote back to defend his restaurant and inadvertently sparked a debate on the Vegan and Vegetarian dietary diners options.
While I personally feel that Wood’s response was on the unprofessional side of criticism reaction, it does raise an interesting point that in the current market, should diners expect restaurants to adapt their dishes to suit their dietary requirements?
The reviewer felt very strongly that his assumed request for a vegan dish was turned down by the restaurant, which begs the question why did the reviewer expect to have a Vegan dish in the first place? A quick look at the A La Carte menu shows some wonderfully delicate and intricate dishes featuring seasonal meat and fish, and one vegetarian starter and main option too. The menu is prominently displayed on the restaurant’s website for all to see.
With The Guardian reporting that Vegan Food is the UK’s fastest growing takeaway market and an estimated 600’000 Vegan’s around the UK supported by a growing number of ‘flexitarians’, the trend is that a Vegan market is growing at exponential rates with The Vegan Society stating that the UK Plant Based Market was worth £443m in 2018.
The Vegan population boom has seen some wonderful improvements in the plant based food world and exceptional restaurants such as Terre a Terre and Food for Friends, both based in Brighton, have been developing intriguing Vegan and Vegetarian inspired dishes to delight diners of all dietary backgrounds. That being said I firmly believe that Restaurants should specialize in what they do best, for the best dining experience.
Our closest and dearest friends opt for the vegetarian-bordering-vegan diet and therefore dining out as a group can sometime be a challenge. Aside from the standard high-street chain restaurants, independent restaurants must have the menu scrutinized four ways for suitability to cater to all our requirements ensuring a good choice of Veggie and Vegan friendly dishes, with absence of a number ingredients for one of our party. I am probably the easiest to cater for, enjoying pretty much anything and everything.
Chef Wood’s has proven from his stint on Masterchef that he can masterfully cook meat and fish to perfection and this seasonal fare is prominent on his menu – the menu is not ‘Vegan Friendly’ and therefore why any Vegan would even go to this restaurant is beyond m. If part of a group then suitable representations should have been made by the Vegan-diet observer, or failing that, another member of the party might have spotted the distinct lack of plant based options. I would never dream of dragging our Vegetarian counterparts to a steak-house as they would not be well catered for and I cannot see the reasoning behind the backlash recevied by Wood’s.
Author background: I was born and raised as a Vegetarian, my mother being a Vegetarian Chef and famously my late Grandfather once said ‘Don’t feed him that Vegetarian muck, it will stunt his growth’. Fortunately he was right and I stopped growing at the grand height of 6ft 6″. My childhood was filled with delightful Vegetarian home-cooked foods and we often ate out at family gatherings, albeit some years ago the vegetarian options were rather uninspired and usually focused around roasted peppers and goats cheese. From the age of 13 I made the decision to enjoy fish as part of my diet and began to eat anything that swam. Four years later, I introduced myself to meat and began enjoying an omnivorous diet. My currently dietary choice is that which would most resemble the mainstream definition of a Flexitarian – we make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of meat and animal products consumed but do not eliminate it from our diet and enjoy a well balanced weekly routine with one or two plant based (Vegan) meals a week.